Numerous accounts claim that Benjamin Franklin traveled along "The Post Road" with an odometer attached to his carriage and directed the placement of milestones or guide stones. We don't know if this is accurate, we are searching for documentation to establish who placed the milestones on our section of the Old Albany Post Road, and when they did so. Miriam Wagner, Noel Kropf, and Howard Kaplowitz are currently researching this (fall 2003), we welcome any information on this topic.
We believe the milestones were erected sometime between 1769 and 1779. We are quite certain that by 1789 they were in place.
We know that Ben Franklin owned a Wayweiser or Way-wiser, made in France, an instrument designed to measure distances, that might have been mounted to a carriage.
We believe that Franklin initiated and oversaw great modernizations of postal routes, which included the placement of milestones in some areas.
We think that the Old Albany Post Road and the Old Boston Post Road share a common path up Broadway from NY City Hall to Kings Bridge - where Broadway crosses the East River near Marble Hill in the Bronx.
So far we have found no source documents showing that Franklin visiting this stretch of road, or conclusive evidence of the year or date that any milestone was first erected here. The curators of B. Franklin's papers at Yale University have not found any references in his writings or other papers of erecting milestones, or use of the Wayweiser.
Public records may exist in Dutchess County because Putnam was part of Dutchess during the time in question.
Below are relevant items from the timeline that are sourced.
1753 Benjamin Franklin appointed Joint Postmaster General for the British Crown. New surveys made, milestones placed on principal roads. [US Postal Service]
1763-1769 One report that milestones (or "guide stones") were placed on Old Albany Post Road during this period. [Peekskill, A Pictorial History 1654-1952 by Peekskill City Historian, Chester A. Smith , p23]
1769 The first mile-stones erected on the Albany and New York Post Road were set up from NY City Hall to Kingsbridge [Elbert Floyd-Jones, A Relic of the Highway, The Origin and Use of Mile-Stones (Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Co., 1923)]
1771 Date on a milestone on the NY-Albany Post Road in Scarsdale
1772 The provisional assembly enacted a statute to carry mail from New York to Albany by postal rider.
1774 Benjamin Franklin left the office of British Postmaster General. [US Postal Service]
1775 B. Franklin appointed 1st Postmaster General of the Colonies by the Continental Congress [US Postal Service]
1778-79 Erskine and Dewitt surveyed Old Albany Post Road and published a manuscript map with mile markings in the appropriate locations. The mileages noted do not correspond with markings on the present milestones ("to N. York"). [Maps located in NY Historical Society]
1785 An act established a stage route between New York City and Albany.[Historical Reminiscences of Cold Spring & Nelsonville, Olive Adams, 1955 Foundry School Museum] One of the stage stops was the tavern of John Warren, built in 1756, now known as the Bird and Bottle Inn.
1789 Christopher Colles's “A Survey of the Roads of the United States”, records the locations of mile markers all the way from New York to Albany, and along other major roads in the eastern US. Mile markings in revised Erskine-Dewitt maps included in this book correspond with present milestones along Old Albany Post Road.[Maps located in NY Historical Society]
1797-1798 Act to Regulate the Highways passed March 21, 1797 and amended March 16, 1798. This act directed the superintendent of highways in every county to erect stones or posts each mile on the road from Kingsbridge to Albany. [Floyd-Jones and Laws of the State of NY...first to twentieth session...Vol.III, p.415] [Putnam County was part of Dutchess County until 1812]
1798-?? Some accounts state that milestones on the Albany Post Road north of Manhattan were placed after 1798, in accordance with the Act of 1797 "The stones were ... five and one-half feet high, fourteen inches in width and six inches in thickness. They were placed in the ground to a depth of three feet." [Floyd-Jones]